What started as a pilot internship led to what we know today as the Community Leaders in Africa Internship Program (CLA).
Looking back, all of this happened because MCW Global trusts and believes in its alumni.
Although a relatively new MCW Global program, the CLA internship is a valuable part of the organization’s commitment to providing professional opportunities for young leaders around the world.
You do not have to take our word for this.
Anusha and Gamuchirai share the importance of volunteering in their careers, its impact on their long-term goals, and highlight their most inspiring experiences from volunteering.
This program provides CLA interns with the opportunity to gain professional on-field experience, by working closely with a mentor on their Personal Development Plan. It improves young leaders’ capacities and reminds us of the importance of community connections in improving our world.
An Eye-opening Journey
Anusha, Program Manager of Africa Programs, believes she would not be part of MCW Global’s team today if the team did not accept and trust her as an intern while volunteering for one of the MCW Global’s affiliates, MC-Tanzania in 2018.
“My internship with the organization was an eye-opening journey for me, so much so that I knew I had the responsibility to take this forward and provide this opportunity to several other MCW Young Leaders Access alumni out there.”
Proving that MCW Global builds meaningful mentorship connections, Anusha recalls how speaking to MCW Global's Executive Director, Khalid Elachi, and MCW Global’s Director of Africa Programs, Regina Leichner, had a crucial role in turning this into a full-fledged program, from which others could also benefit from.
“As I look back, all of this happened because MCW trusted me in the first place, and took the step of having me on board. Had they not showcased that trust back in 2018, CLA as a program may have not existed,” shared Anusha.
Anusha, who at the time was a Social Development and Policy third-year student, saw this internship as an opportunity to put theory into practice.
“My years of schooling taught me theories and paradigms, but this internship gave me the pathway to implement my learnings in a real-time scenario. I witnessed what it was like working in the development sector and understood the community issues via first-hand experience.”
From such a rich experience, Anusha picks her key learning.
“It taught me the importance of involving stakeholders, particularly community members for whom any program or project is being designed,” she asserts, while adding that even today in her work as a development professional it helps to develop and implement projects that have a long-lasting impact on the communities.
Thriving as a Community
Anusha emphasized that volunteering is a crucial aspect of one’s life.
“Being flexible in one’s working style is one of the prominent skillsets I gained through my volunteer work. It is important when you are working with diverse communities and organizations, to mold and adjust to your surroundings and be open to the experiences that will unfold.”
For Anusha, volunteering reinforces the spirit of the African philosophy of Ubuntu, “I am because we are.”
“This proverb serves as a reminder that our individual sense of belonging is fostered in relationship to other people. One cannot spend their life in isolation; it is our communal bond that allows each one of us to exist and thrive.”
This experience honed Anusha’s skillsets in research, training, and strategic planning. Whereas, in Gamuchirai’s case, it improved her knowledge of proposal writing and speaking skills.
Let’s hear from Gamuchirai about her experience.
MCW Global’s Support Paving Better Paths
This article could not have a better voice than that of Gamuchirai — the first intern to kick off the CLA program.
Volunteering helped her develop a strong network, which eventually became her support system.
“When I was in Tanzania, there were many times I could have fallen into depression because of what was happening in the world. COVID-19 was at its peak. I was in a foreign country, no friends, and everyone was experiencing a pandemic for the first time.”
Far from home, surrounded by scary news everywhere, Gamuchirai was worried about herself or losing her family.
Once again, MCW Global’s support helped Gamuchirai get through some of her toughest moments.
“What got me through this phase was the support system I built over the years, from the time I joined MCW in 2016 as a mentee, 2019 as a mentor, and 2020 as an intern in Tanzania.”
“I had several people from the Young Leaders Access (YLA) program, checking up on me and making sure my mental health was stable,” Gamuchirai adds.
Certainly, her volunteering journey with MCW Global has exposed her to many opportunities — within and outside of MCW Global’s circle.
“MCW presented me with opportunities such as CLA and speaking at the YLA conference. Outside MCW, I represented Zimbabwe at the Young African Leaders Initiative Southern Africa fellowship in which I used my MCW volunteer experience to apply.”
A Unique Experience
Gamuchirai strongly believes that these experiences expanded her knowledge of the world, its obstacles, and how other young people are solving their own challenges.
“Volunteering increases your experience as well as boosting an individual’s Resumes and career,” she adds, while describing her five-month-long internship in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania as an “Outreach and Communications Intern.”
The knowledge gained through volunteering she goes on, is not taught at school or University.
“It [volunteering] prepares one to the world of work by teaching important skills in communication, report writing, presentation and teamwork. These skills provide a good foundation for individuals who will work in diverse organizations.”
When Gamuchirai started, her goal was to develop her skills in writing and presentation — a goal she achieved.
“To improve on my presentation, MCW Global gave me an opportunity to chair organizational meetings as well as speak and present at the Young Leaders conference.”
Her volunteering increased her self-awareness, too.
“I realized my weaknesses and strengths through the feedback I got from my CLA mentor and work colleagues. The feedback helped me turn my weaknesses into strengths. My public speaking and writing skills improved because of feedback I received.”
Merging Two Inspiring Stories
Concluding this article in a cheerful tone, Anusha and Gamuchirai describe their inspiring stories along similar paths.
Engaging with the stakeholders of MC-Tanzania is one of many experiences that remain close to Anusha’s heart.
“The first half of my internship revolved around conducting an oral health stakeholder survey with the community of Arusha. I interacted with dentists, health care workers, and Arusha’s city council. Despite having hectic schedules of their own, I was thoroughly impressed by their time commitment and unwavering dedication towards the field of oral health.”
[Please click HERE for more on MCW Global’s Leadership in Dentistry].
Whereas Gamuchirai’s most memorable moment in Tanzania was when MC-Tanzania qualified for three grant opportunities which they applied for during her internship.
One of her tasks was to help fundraise, hence winning the grant was a success for MC-Tanzania and Gamuchirai.
“The proposal writing journey changed my perspective on volunteering and serving the community. I started imagining life from their perspective and this taught me empathy; I started writing a proposal from the beneficiary’s point of view and their problems became my problems; I began envisioning how I wanted to be served, the impact, and the number of beneficiaries targeted.”
Anusha and Gamuchirai are and will remain a testimony of MCW Global’s global network, which as we have witnessed does not grow old, but it only grows stronger.
By: Gresë Sermaxhaj